As a photographer, visual anthropologist, and mother, I am very interested in artifacts designed for children that define who we are and who we should be. Armed with an adult perspective, I look at what has been presented to children as simply afternoon activities. These playthings often carry the suggestion of something more, through undertones of facial expression and dress, societal roles, and idealist perspectives. Paper dolls and Barbie dolls informed my own childhood about fashion, femininity, status, and elegance. Dolls and doll dress changed in my daughter’s generation, bringing less sophistication and more sexuality to the experience, as little girls were emulating Britney Spears, rather than Jacqueline Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. But as these photographs reflect, sexuality was always in the picture, no matter the decade.
By examining paper dolls, especially those from the 1940’s-1970’s, I have discovered the subtext of characterizing ourselves through perfectionist role models and observed a generic sameness to what was and is offered up to our children for self definition. For The Ten, I have created new realities, new pairings, explored the sexual nature of the dolls, and had fun with time worn clichés. Investigating these templates for adulthood has made me acutely aware of how narrow the ideals of family and adulthood were, leaving no room for the celebration of race or alternative choices.
The first ten images of this series is part of THE TEN, and only available through the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta.